Chad's Ramsar Administrative Authority, the Direction de Conservation de la Faune et des Aires Protegées has designated that country's fifth Wetland of International Importance, thereby effectively doubling Chad's surface area under the Ramsar umbrella. As described by Ramsar's Lucia Scodanibbio, based on the Ramsar Information Sheet, the Plaines d'inondation des Bahr Aouk et Salamat (4,922,000 hectares, 10°45'N 020°33'E) is now the world's third-largest Ramsar site, a complex of floodplains, hills, a lake, rivers and ponds located in a natural depression at the border with the Central Africa Republic. The site plays a very important role for the surrounding wildlife, providing breeding grounds for several migratory waterbirds and supporting hippos, leopards, elephants and different antelope species. It also is a spawning and nursery ground for several fish families, and plays a role in flood control, groundwater recharge, sediment trapping and chemical regulation of the waters. Fishing is an important socio-economic activity, with annual catches amounting to 15,000 tonnes; the area is also a renowned grazing ground, and different crops are grown according to the habitat type. Local trees are used for medicinal purposes, firewood and fruit. Tourism in the Zakouma National Park and hunting concessions can potentially be further exploited. The main threats to the site arise from poaching, oil exploration, over-grazing, illegal fires and contamination by pesticides. An environmental education project is taking place in the schools, while awareness-raising and training in participatory management is being carried out with the local communities.
The new designation is part of Chad's contribution to the ChadWet regional initiative that was launched at COP9 as part of Resolution IX.7, and the site includes one of the pilot projects in the framework of the GEF Lake Chad Basin project (which is coordinated by our former Ramsar colleague, Anada Tièga). As with earlier Ramsar sites in Chad, WWF's Global Freshwater Programme was very helpful to the government in supporting the preparation of the site designation data. [23/05/06]